Snoring occurs when the soft tissues in the throat relax and partially block the airways. As air passes around the blockage, these tissues vibrate, producing a rattling sound. Snoring is fairly common in children. Many children snore occasionally, and around 10 percent snore on most nights. Let’s take a closer look at what may be behind all that noise and what you can do to make it stop.
Snoring in children may be a sign of a minor underlying problem, such as nasal congestion or enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids, or a serious condition such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a sleep disorder that occurs when the soft tissues in the throat block the airway to such an extent that normal breathing is interrupted. While OSA can be common in children, it is not always easy to recognize. If your child stops breathing for ten seconds or more while snoring and this results in choking or gasping, these are signs your child may have sleep apnea.
To compensate for the interrupted breathing, your child may sleep with the mouth open or head tilted backwards on the mattress. In addition to sleeping in an unusual position, your child may adopt strange sleeping habits such as banging the head into the pillow or mattress, rolling the head back and forth, or rocking the entire body while sleeping. Your child may also suffer from night terrors and/or bed wetting.
Your child may have no memory of interrupted breathing. However, he/she could have trouble waking and might feel sleepy during the day. The child may be more apt to fall asleep in school or at home or show signs of behavioral problems. Some of the behavioral problems in children with OSA are similar to those in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Common signs of sleep apnea that are consistent with ADHD include difficulty concentrating and nervousness.
It is important to be aware of your child’s sleeping and snoring patterns. If you notice something unusual, do not panic. Simply record your child’s snoring on your smartphone and take the recording to a pediatrician along with a sleep diary and full details of your child’s medical history. If your child’s snoring requires further investigation, you may be referred to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) physician.
If your child snores but does not have OSA symptoms treatment may not be required. However, if your child has OSA symptoms, proper diagnosis and treatment are essential to avoiding complications such as behavioral and learning problems. Treatment for OSA usually involves treating the underlying cause. For instance, if enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids are causing your child’s OSA, your ENT doctor may recommend a tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy. In the United States, 80 percent of tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies in children are performed because of OSA.